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Bending with the Wind: Revisiting Islamist Parties’ Electoral Dilemma

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 June 2015

A. Kadir Yildirim*
Furman University
Caroline M. Lancaster
Furman University
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: A. Kadir Yildirim, Department of Political Science, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613. E-mail:


Islamist parties' electoral performance is a hotly debated question. Two arguments dominate the literature in terms of Islamist parties' performance in democratic elections. The conventional argument has been the “one man, one vote, one time” hypothesis. More recently, Kurzman and Naqvi challenge this argument and show that Islamists tend to lose in free elections rather than win them. We argue that existing arguments fall short. Specifically, we theorize that moderateness of Islamist platform plays a key role in increasing the popularity of these parties and leads to higher levels of electoral support. Using data collected by Kurzman and Naqvi, we test our hypothesis, controlling for political platform and political economic factors in a quantitative analysis. We find that there is empirical support for our theory. Islamist parties' support level is positively associated with moderateness; however, this positive effect of moderation is also conditioned by economic openness.

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2015 

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